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tv   Nightline  ABC  December 7, 2017 12:37am-1:07am PST

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you'll find them barefoot, starving, and shell shocked, walking for weeks to escape brutal repression. tonight, the disturbing ilmans. images. bob woodruff in myanmar with the desperate rohingya, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. >> i can't even imagine being a parent and going through this. >> beaten and raped by government soldiers. parents executed in front of their children. >> your father was killed? >> their villages burned to the ground. in a nation that claims they don't exist. >> the u.n. has called this ethnic cleansing. is this ethnic cleansing? >> while all who dissent are silenced. >> if you put "rohingya" in your post you would be shut down? >> yeah. >> how the government uses facebook to spread disinformation. with time running out who will speak for these forgotten
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people? this special edition of "nightline," "the unwanted," will be right back.
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this is a special edition of "nightline," "the unwanted." >> as dawn breaks we see them. ghostly figures in the distance, on the side of the road.
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fleeing brutal repression in myanmar. seeking safety and shelter on the shores of neighboring bangladesh. it's a heartbreaking scene. barefoot, starving, and shell shocked. a group of 50 rohingya walking slowly. they have just arrived. exhaustion and fear etched on their faces. you came across the water? >> translator: we started at 2:00 in the morning and we just arrived. >> reporter: they carry with them all that they have left. in just a few bags. these are the faces of the unwanted. the rohingya are considered one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. united nations says these muslims are victims of textbook ethnic cleansing. perpetrated by the buddhist
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myanmar military. cell phone video capturing horrifying images of brutality. >> translator: they burned down our homes and took our animals we have no freedom of movement. they'd tell us we could move a few hours a day but they'd grab us once we left our homes and torture us. that is why we fled. >> who was it that burned down your village? >> translator: the military and monks. local rakhine people also. we have no rights. we don't have anything. we cannot work. we cannot feed our children. we cannot eat. >> reporter: recently the head of the military seemed to dispute their very existence. >> reporter: on his recent visit, even the pope would not say their name. in just the last four months, over 625,000 rohingya have fled from northern rakhine state. the government of myanmar says
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its latest crackdown is in response to attacks by the rohingya militant group known as arsa. yet 360,000 of those that have fled are children. with thousands more on their way, the scale of this humanitarian crisis is unprecedented. what do you think would be happening if there's nobody from the outside coming in to help? >> they'd starve. >> you think they would starve? >> they are coming in exhausted and hungry. >> reporter: this entire region is a sea of black and blue tarps, as far as the eye can see. we hike 45 minutes through the camp to get to a clinic in the hills. the conditions are dire. a lot of kids here. >> yeah, 60% of the 600,000 kids that cross the border are children. so this is really a children's crisis more than anything else. this is really the front lines of the response. in terms of health.
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we're literally racing to contain a health crisis. before it explodes and spreads. >> reporter: but many children here are already very sick. as we see firsthand at this unicef feeding center. what happened with your son? >> translator: he is losing weight day by day. >> reporter: this child is 6 months old but weighs only eight pounds. that's about as much an average baby weighs at birth. why did you leave your village? >> translator: our homes were burned. we were tortured. we had to leave. >> reporter: i can't imagine being a parent and go through this. >> yeah. it's cruel. >> reporter: life in the camps is a struggle. the conditions, deplorable. nearly 1 million people packed in tight and growing every day. shadwep island where thousands of rohingya are crossing into bangladesh.
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on the road coming down, we saw a couple of checkpoints. the army didn't want to us take any shooting. we took a little bit. this is where they try to cut off the road. traumatized by what they have seen and on the verge of collapse, they tell us they have been walking for 15 days. their last meal was four days ago. in myanmar? >> yeah. >> what happened? >> their houses are burned down. >> who burnt down your house? >> military. military. >> was anybody killed? >> many people were killed. >> reporter: they each have a horrifying story to tell. the children were not spared. this is mohammad. he is just 11 years old. he tells us his father was killed by the military, and he saw it all. and he shows us how they did it. we spoke with dozens of children. their experiences disturbingly similar.
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>> translator: the military burned down my home. if we had not fled, we would have been killed. >> translator: my name is muday. i am 9 years old. >> reporter: she told us she saw dead bodies piling up as she fled. >> our village was set on fire so we fled. >> reporter: here at this child-friendly space they're beginning to heal. government numbers show over 40,000 children have lost one or both of their parents and nearly 2,000 children are now head of household. gina is one of them. >> translator: when the military people came to our house and started breaking and burning our home, they killed my father. they shot him dead. >> reporter: her mother is too ill to work, so 10-year-old jenna has to work to provide for her family. >> translator: i go to the forest here. i collect firewood and sell it in the market. >> reporter: jenna remembers the day they fled myanmar. >> translator: i saw with my own eyes people who are killed by the military and chopped into pieces. anyone the military caught was slaughtered.
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after they were shot or stabbed they were cut into many pieces, put inside plastic bins, and thrown into the river. >> this is one of the closest points to manga township -- >> reporter: matt smith, ceo of fortify rights, has been documenting the atrocities for years. we were with him in the field earlier this year as he was researching his latest report in conjunction with the u.s. holocaust museum. >> the myanmar military systematically burned villages down. women and girls were raped. we've documented situations of mass gang rape. infants and children were killed, in some cases thrown into fires. >> reporter: yet the myanmar military denies any wrongdoing and recently released this statement on facebook exonerating themselves from killing any rohingya people, burning their villages, or raping women. the spiritual leader of myanmar, aung san suu kyi, has invited the international media to visit northern rakhine state to find out what is really happening.
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so we traveled to myanmar to try to get some answers. >> empty. >> reporter: the capital city of napata is unlike any capital we've ever visited. the avenues are wide. every street is highly manicured. but it is largely empty. one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 lanes and nobody here. this is the main road. heading downtown from the airport. look at this. i don't think i've ever seen this. >> reporter: it doesn't take long before we are told we cannot shoot. >> myanmar police. hey, one car. >> reporter: to get answers from the government, we went to see dr. win murai, minister in charge of relief and resettlement. are you comfortable using the word rohingya? >> no, no, muslim people. >> reporter: in bangladesh we've
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talked to many, many witnesses. dozens of them have told horrific things. i'll read some. their family members were killed or beaten. babies thrown into fires. villages burnt to the ground. all claiming that this was the myanmar military. >> you believe all the things, all they said. so why don't you believe me? i frequently visited. and i myself is the witness what i have seen and what i heard. why don't you believe me? >> because you did not witness this either. there's plenty of video of homes burning down, people getting beaten by the myanmar military. we've seen those pieces of evidence. and you're saying i should believe you even though you've not witnessed it whatsoever? >> i don't know. i don't know. i can't -- i know what i have to answer because i already have. >> just to make this clear, are you saying that the myanmar military did not kill anyone or
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burn down any homes? >> don't say like that. you are meaning is very, very difficult to answer. so i already have said that what i have seen and what i have heard. that's all. that's all. >> the world is getting very angry, they're very upset at what's happening here. >> yes, it's the problem. it's the problem. so the time is up. >> reporter: the minister tries to cut our interview short, signaling to his security guard by the door. >> the u.n. has called this ethnic cleansing. is this ethnic cleansing? >> i don't -- actually, it is not. not true. because it's not ethnic cleansing. because we are not making it happen. it's happened by themselves. >> reporter: but is it? we decide to find out for ourselves. when we come back -- >> translator: you cannot, you need special papers. >> reporter: hate in the most unlikely of places. the children that we spoke to, they witnessed killings.
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>> translator: they're lying, i don't believe the military killed their parents. >> reporter: spreading like wildfire. stay with us. afi sure had a lot on my mind. my 30-year marriage... 3-month old business... plus...what if this happened again? i was given warfarin in the hospital, but wondered, was this the best treatment for me? so i made a point to talk to my doctor. he told me about eliquis.
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so we head to sidway, rakhine state, to try to visit the camps we accessed in 2015. we've been documenting this exploding crisis for nearly three years now. why are we going through the back entrance? >> the authorities are not interested in outside attention. >> reporter: this time around, even more checkpoints, more soldiers. >> translator: you cannot, you need special papers. >> reporter: we're blocked from entering but we learn that aung san suu kyi will be arriving in sidway shortly. this crisis is all unfolding in suu kyi's new democracy. in 1991 she won the nobel peace prize for her principled stance against tyranny. >> -- fundamental human rights are not only necessary, but possible for our society. >> reporter: but her silence now in the face of these atrocities has astonished her admirers in the west.
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her helicopter just landed -- >> reporter: our interview request went unanswered. we try to ask her a question at the airport. >> i just want to see the arrival. can i take a video of it? >> no photo. >> reporter: in myanmar, answers are hard to come by. news outlets are highly censored. most people get their news via facebook. judging by what people have told us, they are not getting the whole picture. can we ask about the rohingya issue? >> translator: what i know is i see them as terrorists who attacked the rakhine state, not rohingyas, they are terrorists. >> translator: i could gather information from facebook. >> what does facebook say about them? >> translator: they want to occupy our land and our people. >> reporter: that sentiment was all too common. what do you think about the rohingya people? >> translator: i think they are terrorists. they are excrement. they are making problems everywhere. >> what kind of problems are they causing, the rohingya
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people? >> translator: what i hear is in the villages they burn their own houses, then they burn the other people's houses, then they ran. >> reporter: hate can be found where you least expect it. hello, nice to meet you. there are about 1 million rohingyas who have fled out of this country into bangladesh. 600,000 of them just since august 25th. why are so many people running if there's not a threat of death to them? >> translator: the media from the west created the story that these people were killed by the myanmar army because these muslim people, these rohingya people, they have planned to occupy the rakhine state as their islamic state. >> are you saying the rohingya people are making this up, that the media is making this up? >> translator: i will say that the news produced by the western media is completely wrong. >> many of the children we spoke to said they witnessed the
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killing and that was done by those in military uniforms. >> translator: i think that those kids are ordered to lie. >> even their own parents have been killed. you think they're lying about that? >> translator: they are lying. i do not believe that the military killed their parents. >> reporter: the monk's words are jarring. but listen to this. >> reporter: this is one of the most prominent monks in myanmar. in a sermon to soldiers on october 30th posted on his facebook page. >> according to his interpretation, killing nonbuddhist is not sin. >> killing nonbuddhist is not a sin? >> yeah. >> reporter: nicky diamond is a george w. bush fellow and a human rights specialist with fortify rights. >> that means he's encouraging largely to kill ethnic groups including the rohingya? >> yeah.
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everyone. >> reporter: diamond says this monk and others are spreading these messages of hate on social media and taking down any opposition. >> this is the government's facebook? >> yeah. >> this would never have the word "rohingya" in it? >> never, they regard rohingya as terrorists. >> do people understand this is the government taking a one-sided argument? >> no. right now we have a civilian elected government. so they believe, truly believe in government doing the right thing. >> those who back the rohingyas, are they able to freely communicate on social media? >> no. if i post something related to rohingya situation, my post will be suspended by the facebook. >> wait, if you put rohingya in your post, you would be shut down? >> yeah. >> reporter: facebook tells us in myanmar, people post content to discuss and draw awareness to the issues, although some of this content may otherwise violate our community standards that restrict the sharing of
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graphic and violent content, we allow content to be shared when there is significant public interest value. however, where content contains hate speech, we remove it when reported to us. speaking out like this can be dangerous for diamond. who lives in myanmar with his family. >> i have been followed. if i'm going on a trip, all the time i kind of worry what will happen to my family or happen to me. >> because your advocacy, your family could be threatened? >> yeah. we're documenting abuses perpetrated by, most of the case, military officers. they don't like that kind of discussion. >> they want you to shut the hell up? >> yeah. they'll never stop what i'm doing. >> they'll never stop you? >> yeah. >> reporter: at times like these, we hear phrases like, not on our watch. or, never again. but it is happening on our watch. and never again is clearly not enough.
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the need of the rohingya refugees who have fled myanmar is great. the united nations says nearly $80 million is required to support the refugees. meanwhile, earlier today, the united states house of representatives passed a resolution calling for sanctions on myanmar.
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